Hearing about the death of one of my favorite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, made me groan. I don't know why, but it felt like the death of a friend. That is the allure of film. We see stories with which we resonate, admire characters with whom we identify, and then deposit in our hearts fond feelings for the actors who bring these fictions to life. I've written before that our obsession with Hollywood should give pause to us all: we venerate people who are good fakers. What does that say about us? We love to watch great pretenders. Professional liars (is that too strong of a term for actors?) are our heroes. Indeed, great actors know how to embody the role, wear the psyche of a complex character--which some think leads to the demise of the overly empathetic actor.
This is why it bothers me so much that the press and the adoring public are eaten up with wanting the gory details of Mr. Hoffman's death. It makes me angry. I didn't need to hear that he had a needle in his arm when he died. I didn't need to hear about all the bags of heroin in his apartment. I didn't need to hear about his last hours on this earth--where he ate, how much money he drew from the ATM, whom he talked to on the phone. All I could think about were his children, how they won't have their daddy around any more, how they'll have to hear all of their lives about how great an actor their daddy was and how tragic it was that he died a drug addict. What a horrible burden to carry, especially for a child.
We watch. We wait for more bits of juicy gossip. We wring our hands over the tragedy. We try to find some good in the "national conversation" about heroin addiction. But, where's the dignity of remembering a man who was more than an actor and a drug addict? He was a father for goodness sake. He was someone's son. Like every one of us, he too was made in the image of God.
Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes." That's the best way to describe my desire these days. I'm tired of watching the drama, the horror, the circus, the car wreck, the grief at someone else's expense. For God's sake and mine . . .
It's time to look away and refuse to consume what the clamoring masses crave.